Welcome to ‘Interview with an entrepreneur’, a new series where we talk to entrepreneurs and industrialists and delve into their business mind. Today we interview Mr Stefano Pessina the Executive Chairman of the international pharmaceutical health and beauty group Alliance Boots.

After studying at the University of Milan, Stefano Pessina helped to turn around his family’s ailing business, a drug wholesaler known as the Alliance UniChem Group. In 2006 the company merged with the large UK pharmacy chain Boots Group to become Alliance Boots, what it is today. Alliance Boots is headquatered in Zug, Switzerland with a revenue of £23.3 billion and 115,500 employees. Mr. Pessina is married with two children and lives in Monte Carlo.

As a child were you exposed to any entrepreneurial influences?
I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment which instilled the entrepreneurial spirit in me.

What does your average workday consist of?
I don’t really have a standard day – each day is very different! My daily work activities mainly reflect four areas:

  • Firstly it is of course steering the strategic development and growth of the company
  • Secondly, it is developing partnerships in order to further accelerate our growth.
  • Thirdly, it is ensuring that the Group’s organic growth and financial performance is on track and meets expectations.
  • Fourthly, it is representing the company at key events as well as to catch up with the teams and motivate our people.

As I am very dedicated to accelerating and driving the company’s geographical expansion, I obviously travel quite a lot to pursue and identify growth opportunities. I also spend a significant amount of time in dialogue with our stakeholders.

Do you believe that marketing using social media is relevant to Alliance Boots?
Many of our businesses within Alliance Boots have already adopted social media approaches within their marketing strategy so it is very relevant to our Group. Boots UK, our UK retail business, is one of the strongest examples and social media (particularly Facebook) is featured strongly in marketing campaigns for Boots branded products (e.g. No7, one of the UK’s leading cosmetics and skincare brands, and 17 cosmetics).

After many years in business what continues to motivate you?
My passion for developing the business is still extremely strong and being an entrepreneur at heart, I am passionate about achieving our mission to make Alliance Boots the world’s leading pharmacy-led health and beauty group.

What innovations do you see being developed in the pharmaceutical industry during the next five years?

  •  Personalized medicine will drive the agenda: we will move from a world in which we “react” to disease and illness after it has happened, to one in which we will be doing far more to “prevent” healthcare problems through highly personalized medicine. This is primarily coming about because of fast rates of discovery related to genomics.
  • Small biotech companies will continue to play a significant role in the research agenda alongside big-pharma companies, by focusing on ever tighter niche markets, as well as by discovering disease-oriented drugs based on specific genetic markers.
  • Bio-connectivity could become the next big development: A new generation of intelligent, Internet-connected medical devices may flood the industry, providing new opportunities for monitoring and management of difficult healthcare conditions.
  • Home healthcare will come to be a large part of the healthcare industry. There will be more focus on opportunities to re-engineer the system through family and caregiver involvement in the home context, with bio-connectivity playing a big role.

Do you believe the ‘Occupy London’ protesters are overreacting?
It would not be appropriate for me to comment on this.

What business achievement are you most proud of?
It is difficult for me to choose just one achievement – here are some of the major achievements I have led:

  • Takeover of the family business in 1977
  • Expanding the family business to make it a national leader in the 1980s
  • Creation of Franco-Italian Group:AllianceSanté
  • Merger between Alliance Santé and UniChem to create Alliance UniChem
  • Expansion of Alliance UniChem to become the pan European leader in six years
  • Merger between Alliance UniChem and Boots Group to form Alliance Boots (Overcoming several rejected approaches to merge with Boots Group)
  • Private takeover of Alliance Boots (in partnership with KKR) in 2007 – trading profit has increased by 67% since then.

What is the most important piece of advice you would offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?

  • Try to transform constraints into opportunities and to see the positive in negative situations.
  • Have a long term vision and stick to it.
  • If you want to be the leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, I believe the key ingredients are: vision, focus, passion, trust, courage and integrity. You will be able to make a difference by designing and driving innovative solutions, always seeking to bring something new to market and be willing to take controlled risks.